(NORMAN, Okla.) — One of the students identified in a video of University of Oklahoma fraternity members reciting a racist chant said “the song was taught to us,” but Sigma Alpha Epsilon denied that the chant originated at the national organization, blaming the since-shuttered chapter.
“I admit it likely was fueled by alcohol consumed at the house before the bus trip, but that’s not an excuse,” Parker Rice, 19, said in a statement released Tuesday to the Dallas Morning News. “Yes, the song was taught to us, but that too doesn’t work as an explanation.”
Rice, who attended a Catholic high school in Dallas, is seen in the video leading his fellow University of Oklahoma fraternity members in the chant, “There will never be a n***** at SAE.”
Former fraternity members have claimed the same language was used at other colleges, but the national headquarters denied being the source of the chant, which referred to lynchings and keeping African-Americans out of the fraternity.
“In separate statements, the two men who have been expelled from the university have mentioned that the song was ‘taught to us,’” the fraternity said in a statement released late Tuesday. “However, as has been maintained in previous statements, the national fraternity does not teach such a racist, hateful chant, and this chant is not part of any education or training.”
“Our investigation has found very likely that the men learned the song from fellow chapter members, which reiterates why Sigma Alpha Epsilon did not hesitate to close the chapter completely because of the culture that may have been fostered in the group,” it continued.
The fraternity was founded in 1856 at the University of Alabama and now features about 15,000 members across more than 200 chapters.
Matt Lopez, Rice’s former dorm mate on the Norman, Oklahoma, campus, blamed the incident on Rice’s trying to fit in.
“I know Parker, he’s not racist. He’s really not…he compromised his morality for the liking of his friends,” Lopez said Tuesday.
Another fraternity member, Levi Pettit, was also identified as a participant after the video appeared. His parents, Brody and Susan Pettit, released a statement Tuesday saying they were “shocked and saddened” by what they saw in the video.
“As parents of Levi, we love him and care for him deeply,” they said. “He made a horrible mistake, and will live with the consequences forever. However, we also know the depth of our son’s character. He is a good boy, but what we saw in those videos is disgusting.”
University of Oklahoma President David Boren said the students who played a leadership role in the “exclusionary” chant had created a hostile learning environment. He said the chant was heard not only by those on a bus, but also affected the entire university community because it was distributed through social media.
“I have emphasized that there is zero tolerance for this kind of threatening racist behavior at the University of Oklahoma. I hope that the entire nation will join us in having zero tolerance of such racism when it raises its ugly head in other situations across our country,” Boren said.
According to Boren’s letter, if the expelled students disagree with the decision, they can contact the school’s Equal Opportunity Office by Friday.
The university has not confirmed the identities of the expelled students.
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